Seed-buying time!

Wendy S. Delmater
By Wendy S. Delmater on Sun, Dec 31, 2017 - 3:26pm

In the dead of winter, while you're at least partially living off last year's harvest, is the time to plan out next year's plantings and fill in any holes left by your seed-saving. I cannot tell you what to order in your location, for your climate or the mini-climate that is your garden, but I can suggested avenues of interest, 

1. Inventory your existing seed cache. Before you spend any money, see what you have. And that includes older seeds. Seed meant to be planted in 2017 will still be 80 percent viable in 2018. Heck, I found some black-seeded Simpson lettuce seeds in a packet behind a bookshelf, They were seven years old, yet some of them sprouted.And you're saving seed, right? If not, its dead easy for many plants; this year, give it a try! 

2. What worked or did not work last year? Gardening is a learning experience. For one thing, you learn what you (and your family) will or will not eat. A bumper crop of parsnips will not help you if no one will eat them. And which varieties did better in 2017? Examples: We've tried many varieties of kale but the winner is always dragon's tongue, so that's all we grow now. Same with the only type of cucumber we grow (West India Burr Gherkins.) Head lettuces do poorly in the south so while we might try new varieties, we'll stick with loose-leaf lettuces and our usual Red Sails, Oak Leaf, basil (as a salad green!), and black-seeded Simpson (seed saved!). The only bean other than green beans we've grown with great success is a lima, and it's easy to save its seeds. We still have not found a non-hybrid okra we like but we've saved seed and will buy new hybrid seed and new heirloom varieties until we do. We'll just use stored potatoes and sweet potatoes as seed (let them grow eyes, cut out part of the potato with the eye, let it dry out a day and then plant!) We have bell and jalapeno pepper seeds saved, but since out raised beds are exponentially deeper we need full-length carrot seed. That's some of what worked or did not work for us. Your list will be different. 

3. Have you planned your garden out?  Don't just think of your garden in two dimensions, as a plot in the ground...although you have to allow for certain things to spread (like cukes). Think in three dimensions: think of roots. How deep do your plant's roots go, and if it's deep or shallow-rooted can it be inter-planted with something else ? (We're gonna try asparagus interplanted with sunchokes.) And how tall is the plant - will it block sunlight for other things or provide partial shade? Think in four dimensions (time, sequencing): How many crops can you add in succession? Our leaf lettuces, radishes, and lima beans need several plantings, one after the other, overlapping in time. Other things will take up their beds all year. In our garden that means things like strawberries, sweet potatoes, peppers, parsley, and agurula. 

4. Go with trusted seed sources. My basic favorite seed suppliers are Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, Territorial Seed Company, and a place called R.H. Shumway's. For specialty items (exotic heirlooms) I like White Flower Farm (I used to like Mt Vernon's seeds  but their webpage is down) and for fruiting trees and bushes I've found Stark Brothers has the best quality. 

7 Comments

robshepler's picture
robshepler
Status: Silver Member (Offline)
Joined: Apr 16 2010
Posts: 105
Great info!

One of our favorite suppliers is Johnny's Selected Seeds. They are a bit expensive and worth the extra cost as a small market grower. One of the things I like about them is their breeding program, we happen to have verticilium and fusarium in our soil, they have varieties that have resistance to both of those wilt fungi. All seeds are tested for germination rates and those published numbers help plan our planting.

Don't forget to rotate your crops!

Good fun, thank you Wendy.

robie robinson's picture
robie robinson
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Aug 25 2009
Posts: 1144
We get our seed from

Rispens seed. Best packaging and prices. Foil seed pouches 

Sunflowergirl's picture
Sunflowergirl
Status: Member (Offline)
Joined: Nov 6 2017
Posts: 2
Wendy S. Delmater's picture
Wendy S. Delmater
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Dec 13 2009
Posts: 1982
Foil seed pouches.

Robbie, I'm not fond of foil seed pouches because I often hold part of the seed over for "year two," and in foil those seeds are all dead by year 2. I avoid buying from Park Seed for that reason: all their seeds are in foil. Foil seed packets are fine if you use all the seed that year, though. 

Wendy S. Delmater's picture
Wendy S. Delmater
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Dec 13 2009
Posts: 1982
Great List

Great list, Sunflowergirl! Also you should note that Burpee is getting grabby about trying to lock up generic heirloom seed varieties with copyrights. 

Matt Holbert's picture
Matt Holbert
Status: Bronze Member (Offline)
Joined: Oct 3 2008
Posts: 92
Am I Missing Something?

 Johnny’s, Territorial, Fedco, Nichol’s, Rupp, Osborne, Snow, and Stokes are among the dozens of commercial and garden seed catalogs that carry the more than 3,500 varieties that comprise Seminis’ offerings.

While Nichol’s, Rupp, Osborne, Snow, and Stokes are on the Monsanto/Seminis list, Johnny’s, Territorial, and Fedco (unfortunate name) appear on the "safe seeds" list.

robie robinson's picture
robie robinson
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Aug 25 2009
Posts: 1144
Zip locka

Foil pouches seem to keep them fine for me and are rodent resistant. Different plant seeds loose their vitality at different rates. I go thru alota seed. Main garden is 150'X 300'. Buy my cruciferous seeds by the pound.

How do you store your seeds?

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